Below is the expected opening day roster for the Boston Red Sox. I have also included the handedness and position experience for each player, where the anticipated primary position is listed first.
- Christian Vazquez, R, C/1B/2B/3B
- Bobby Dalbec, R, 1B/3B
- Kiki Hernandez, S, 2B/SS/1B/3B/CF/LF/RF
- Xander Bogaerts, R, SS/3B
- Rafael Devers, L, 3B
- Franchy Cordero, L, LF/CF/RF
- Alex Verdugo, L, CF/RF/LF
- Hunter Renfroe, R, RF/CF/LF
- JD Martinez, R, DH/LF/RF
- Kevin Plawecki, R, C/1B
- Marwin Gonzalez, S, RF/LF/CF/SS/2B/3B/1B
- Eduardo Rodriguez, LSP
- Nathan Eovaldi, RSP
- Martin Perez, LSP
- Garrett Richards, RSP
- Nick Pivetta, RSP/RP
- Tanner Houck, RSP/RP
- Matt Andriese, RSP/RP
- Matt Barnes, RRP
- Ryan Brasier, RRP
- Adam Ottovino, RRP
- Darwinizon Hernandez, LRP
- Hirokazu Sawamura, RRP
- Danny Santana, S, SS/2B/1B/3B/LF/CF/RF or Jonathan Arauz, S, SS/2B/3B or Michael Chavis, R, 3B/2B/1B/LF or Christian Arroyo, SS/2B/3B
- Josh Taylor, LRP/Colten Brewer, RRP/Austin Brice, RRP/ Phillips Valdez, RRP
Alex Cora has a nice “problem.” Much nicer than last year’s, anyway.
The top nine on this list are the presumed regular starting fielders, and a heavy dose of Marwin Gonzalez will be lathered on all over. Plawecki is the backup catcher. Pivetta, Houck, and Andriese are all making strong cases for the 5th spot in the pitching rotation (at least until the mid-season return of Chris Sale) behind Rodriguez, Eovaldi, Perez, and Richards. Barnes will start the season as the closer, with Ottovino, Hernandez, and Brasier setting him up.
That puts the roster at 22, with four spots still to be seized. Sawamura, the 32-year-old veteran of the Japanese league, is expected to be in the bullpen but is still adjusting to — well, everything. The MLB game, players, language, field, and expectations are all different, but he seems to be acclimating and should break camp with the team. Sox manager Alex Cora has indicated that he would like to carry 14 pitchers with the 26th spot available. So, the last two spots would be a competition between Josh Taylor, Colten Brewer, Austin Brice, and Phillips Valdez. Here is how they stack up:
- Taylor: 8.59 K/9 in 2020; 1.24 career WHIP; 28 years old, 54.2 innings career MLB (2 years)
- Brewer 8.77 K/9 in 2020; 28 years old, 90 innings career MLB (3 years)
- Brice 11.44 K/9 in 2020; 1.29 career WHIP; 28 years old, 148.1 innings career MLB, (5 years)
- Valdez: started 14 games as recently as 2019 (minors with Texas); threw 30.1 innings in 24 games for Boston in 2020; 8.9 K/9 in 2020; 29 years old, 46.1 innings career MLB (2 years)
Taylor is the only lefty of the bunch and would be the second lefty in the pen; Hernandez being the other lefty. Brice has the most MLB experience, followed by Brewer. Valdez has shown some durability and would seem the most likely candidate to spot start beyond the Andriese/Houck/Pivetta trio. Brice is the only of the four without any remaining minor league options. 24-year-old Garrett Whitlock could also work into the mix. Brasier’s recovery from a pinkie fracture could open a temporary door for another of these arms to begin the season.
Danny Santana has yet to see any spring training action as he nurses an elbow and an ankle. Still, expectations are for him to be another seven-position-super-utility guy, and while he is a switch hitter, he has had more success from the right side. Whether or not he can approach his 2019 power numbers, he represents the best pinch-runner option when a stolen base is needed, provided he is healthy, and he will need to be added to the 40-man roster, meaning the exposure of someone else. Michael Chavis has shown tremendous power but saw his contact rate drop significantly from 2019-20. Coming up through the minors as a third base/second base infielder, he held his own at first base in his time with the big club. The Sox threw him into left field for about a dozen games last year, and although he did not exactly take to it like a fish to water, he at least showed the willingness to be flexible. Oddly, he has not gotten any looks in the outfield this spring, but he did show up looking slimmer and more athletic. That could play in his favor in the field and on the basepaths. Christian Arroyo has shown glovework flashes, but with four different teams over four years, he has accrued only 85 games due to a litany of injuries. Jonathan Arauz has the same position flexibility as Arroyo, is a switch hitter, and has been more durable. Arauz and Chavis have minor league options, meaning they will likely be in AAA Worcester to provide injury insurance. But with question marks on the health of Bogaerts, Cordero, and Santana to start the season, they might get a more extended look.
Pitchers Bryan Mata, and Jay Groome, along with position players Marcus Wilson, Yairo Munoz, and Michael Gettys, all add to depth that Cora will likely need. The 2021 season, for Cora, is not only his first season back in the majors, but it is also the Red Sox’s first full season since the COVID pandemic began. And while Bogaerts, Devers, Martinez, and Rodriguez are bonafide stars, this is not what most would call a “top-heavy” roster. Cora seems enthusiastic to see what magic he can make happen with the versatility he has.
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